Student athletes deserve our empathy

AB Boyd | Cartoonist

You’re daydreaming in the backyard at age 11. Your imagination takes you through your normal routine: World Series game seven, bottom of the ninth, two outs, full count, bases loaded, season on the line. But did you ever imagine you wouldn’t drive the winning run in? Did you ever imagine it would be your fault your team lost?

Now put stakes on it. Athletes deal with that pressure every weekend, every gameday. They have themselves to answer to along with their team, their coaches, their school, their fanbase.

Thousands of people count on and expect Charlie Brewer to make every throw. They will criticize and attack him for any incompletion or interception or fumble. All because he made a mistake in a child’s game.

These student athletes don’t deserve to be ridiculed on a level harsher than our nation’s politicians. They’re kids, and even once they’re professionals, they don’t get paid to be perfect. No one does.

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. That should be the baseline here — the standard. Go try and make that pass with 10,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs. Go ahead and give it a shot.

Do you think that throw would fall perfectly into the receiver’s arms? If not, would you appreciate thousands of tweets ripping you apart? How about people you’ve never met in your life saying you don’t deserve everything you’ve worked so hard for?

People get attached to sports. They are an escape from all the harsh realities of life that no one wants to deal with, so when a student screws up on Saturday, fans will take it personally.

But the athlete didn’t do that on purpose. He wants to win more than you do. Everything in his life depends on the success of that team. All you depend on him for is whether you’ll be happy or upset when you turn off the television.

On top of their practices and treatments and all the other parts of athletics student-athletes participate in, there’s school. After all, they are students first. Then there’s family and friends and a career to prepare for.

They have a life outside of what you see on Saturdays.

Give them a break. They’re still kids. They’re still developing and learning. There’s no good reason to get in their mentions and make them feel worse than they already do. They perfectly understand.